Legal Minimum Drinking Age 18
75% of students have consumed alcohol by the end of their high school career (Clapp, 288). Prohibiting the sale of liquor to young adults ages 18-20 creates an uncontrolled atmosphere where alcohol abuse has come to the point of being fatal. Young adults cannot learn how to drink safely and in moderations in these uncontrolled environments that the law has lead them into. We have seen what happens when drinking is banned by the history of the prohibition it was made the forbidden fruit, this is the same way young adults see it today and once they get ahold of it is over indulge in unsafe ways. The legal age to join the army, vote and pay taxes is 18; at the age of 18 you are seen and treated as an adult but you cannot buy alcohol until the age of 21. Today teens are far more sophisticated than past generations. They're treated less like children and have more responsibilities at a younger age. The legal minimum drinking age should be changed to 18, but at the same time there needs to be stronger education on drinking while these young adults are still in school, so they can understand that it’s ok not to drink, but if they decide to, they will know how to in safe and moderate ways. In parts of the Western world young adults are allowed to dinking, but unlike the United States they were taught to drink moderately under controlled environments. Though alcohol consumption in France and Spain is higher than in the United States, the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse is much lower (Ahlstrom, 571). This is because these young adults were taught who to drink safely from, their environment and elders, where they can see and experience the affects of alcohol in safe ways. The legal minimum drinking age of 21 is clearly not working, there are more and more college students ages 18–24 from 1998 to 2001 find themselves in “alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths [that has] increased from nearly 1600 to more than 1700, an increase of 6% per college population” (Hingson, 259). Drinking occurs frequently within the college environment. It was reported that 87.3% of college students under the legal minimum drinking age had tried alcohol, when 50% reported heavily drinking in the past year (Clapp, 275). Heavy drinking can cause many consequences, from mild ones as hangovers to severe problems such as suicide attempts and death. Although mild problems like hangovers are most common, “the heavy use of alcohol among college students has been estimated to result in approximately 1,400 deaths and another 500,000 alcohol-related traumas each year”(Clapp, 275). Research done by Miron and Tetelbaum, shows that the minimum legal drinking age has only a minor effect on teen drinking. College students under the age of 21 are drinking in uncontrolled environments, they are left to learn for themselves how to drink at a moderate and safe rate. This learning process cannot be approached in these unsupervised environments, where young adults play drinking games and form ruinous drinking habits. The environment witch you are drinking in can relate to how and how much alcohol you consume. Many concerns come with the discussion of lowering the drinking age; one of those main issues is drinking and driving. It is true that teens are less experienced than adult drivers and that “the teen traffic fatality rate (defined as deaths of 16-19-year-olds per population) is nearly double the rate for adults aged 25 and older [these denoted by miles of travel]” (Dee, 91), though now it is seen that, that number has decreased 50% in the past years due to the higher mileage rate and road time teens are driving now then back in 1983 shown by Dee and Evans research. Examination done by Miron and Tetelbaum demonstrates that the current law of a minimum drinking age has nothing to do with drunken driving deaths. The graph below compares the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) with the fatality rate per vehicle miles traveled (VMT) each year from 1933-2004.
Note that the fatality rate is on the decline throughout the time period, although this result may be seen as an improvement of car safety it strictly deals with the affect of impaired drivers (320). This issue of drinking and driving is big just in general not just for young adults. There are nearly 1.4 million driving-while-impaired arrests that occur in the United States each year this is of the age group greater or equal to 21, the drinking age limit is not what we really need to focus on; it’s the stricter enforcement and better education on drunk driving. Research done by Wagenaar and Toomey, shows that the legal drinking age topic has “little or no research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature” (687). Young adults are far more aware of the risks of drinking, that it can cause them to be confused, to vomit, alter their temper causing them to be dangerously angry, slow down their breathing, turn skin pale, become cold and clammy but the most important one is the risk of death from over consumption or putting themselves in dangerous situations that can cause fatality to themselves, and/or other people (Hingson, 560). Although young adults are more aware of effects of alcohol there is still more they can learn, thus continuing educating the public and people under the legal drinking age of 21 about the effects of alcohol is important. A research done by Planken and Boer found that after a 10 minute peer educated speech on safe moderate drinking was performed “adolescents had a more realistic view of their alcohol intake, more frequently perceived alcohol intake of their friends as binge drinking, and reported a higher intention to drink less alcohol in the future”(35). If only a 10 minute speech could change the behavior and knowledge about drink, imagine the effects of a 30 minute class once or twice a month could have on young adults, which will be with them their whole lives. Peer-reviewed scientific literature regarding the legal minimum drinking age is every insignificant due to the lack of research done behind it consequently there is no data that supports the legal minimum drinking age. Therefore the age group 18 and great should be able be able to buy and consume alcohol beverages since this ago group is already treated as adults; why not let them pass through the threshold into true adulthood with this responsibility. References
Ahlstrom, S., & Huhtanen, P. (2007). The effects of perceived availability of different alcoholic beverages on young people's drinking in europe: a comparative exploration. Contemporary Drug Problems 34.4, (559-574). Clapp, J.D. (2006) Drunk in public, drunk in private: the relationship between college students, drinking environments and alcohol consumption. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 32.2(275+). Dee, T. & Evans, W. (2001). Behavioral policies and teen trafic safety. American Economic Review 91.2 (91-96). Hingson, R., Heeren, T., Winter, M. & Wechsler, H. (2005) Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among u.s. college students ages 18-24: changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Reviews Public Health 26(259-279). Miron, J. & Tetelbaum, E. (2009) Does the minimum legal drinking age save lives? Economic Inquiry 47.2(317-320). Planken, M., & Boer, H. (2010). Effects of a 10-Minutes Peer Education Protocol to Reduce Binge Drinking Among Adolescents During Holidays. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education 54.2 (35-52). Wagenaar, A. & Toomey, T. (2000) Alcohol policy: gaps between legislative action and current research. Contemporary Drug Problems 27.4(681+).